Video posted online on Tuesday depicts the arrest and TASERing of an unidentified black man in St. Paul, Minnesota for seemingly little reason other than his refusal to state his name, the Twin Cities Daily Planet reported.
“Why am I going to jail?” the man can be heard saying toward the end of the nearly 6-minute long clip.
“It’ll be explained to you,” a male officer responds.
The video, which seemed to have been taken on a cell phone this past winter, begins with a female officer walking beside the man and asking for his name.
“Why do I have to let you know who I am?” the man asks. “I don’t have to let you know who I am if I haven’t broken any laws.”
Unfortunately, in some states (though Minnesota is not even one of them), individuals may face arrest if they refuse to identify themselves to police officers, even if the officer has no reason to suspect that a crime has been or is being committed. So-called stop and identify statutes require an individual approached by police to give his or her name or face arrest. Such statues are problematic. First, stop and identify laws lend themselves to pretextual stops that may result in racial profiling.
Furthermore, no reasonable suspicion, much less probable cause, is required for arrest. Indeed, if a police officer chooses to ask a person for his or her name, that person may be arrested for nothing more than refusing to give a name. This is both patently absurd and egregiously unconstitutional.
What can we do about it?
Know your rights: Is your state a stop and identify state? Take a look at the map above and determine whether police in your state may legally require you to identify yourself (stop and identify states are colored in red).
Spread the word: Take the time to educate others, even if all you do is post blog post to your social media pages. The more people know, the more prepared they are to assert their rights.
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how to get involved.